Pooh and Piglet illustration by E.H. Shepard
Well, I'd popped into Facebook, and while I was there, I decided to do something I'd been wanting to for awhile -- go through my already small Friends list and Unfriend anyone with whom I hadn't interacted for ages, and whom I knew ultimately didn't give two hoots about me or my family.
As I Unfriended these people, I wondered why I'd even Friended them to begin with; I concluded it had been some sort of vague sentimentality, or a fleeting excitement at touching base again with someone I hadn't seen for decades. But after the initial rush of "how have you beens", communication quickly died and we became largely indifferent to each other, so why keep them on, burdening them with boring updates about myself?
As you might guess, I am not one of those people who have hundreds and thousands of FB "friends". I don't quite understand the people who do, and can only conclude that they need them for work, or else they're immensely entertaining and popular, and simply can't help themselves.
My one girlfriend has some 300 friends, for instance; on asking her if she spoke with all these people regularly, or if she even really knew who they all were, she frankly admitted she didn't (I won't even ask the guy who has 2,346 "friends"). Some of them were people she'd met only once or twice at a meeting or a party and then never saw again; others were friends of friends of friends, people she didn't even know, but who seemed to feel compelled to extend their social ripple as widely, albeit meaninglessly, as possible.
I can't help but wonder how FB affects one's concept of friendship. Many people seem to use their status updates as substitutes for get-togethers, or phone calls; comments and emoticons are used to show interest or concern. There is a sort of superficiality about it all, an implication that all it takes is a quick click of a button to be considered a friend.
Considering all the activity I see people engaged in on FB, I realise I've barely scratched the surface of what the whole thing is about. It was ages before I finally joined the site -- while the rest of the world was already fully immersed in friending, poking and gaming -- and I did so eventually in order to get in touch with an old friend from university.
For me personally, FB is wonderfully useful for things like that, and keeping in touch with those who are overseas. I post the odd photo or comment now and then primarily to keep in touch with them, and that's about the extent of my FB activity. I'm rarely on, but the times I am, I see people posting a million and one things, from political gripes to what they eat every day.
(My personal bugbear were the posts detailing every little thing their kids said or did, so I was thrilled to discover the feature that lets one silence specific people who do that FB equivalent of taking out a whole string of photos from their wallet and shoving it at you. These are the sorts of things your friends would probably never do to you in person -- FB seems to bring out unaccountable things in some people).
Well, for some time I'd wanted to share an article I'd read in an old issue of Real Simple, entitled Feel Better Already. The subhead read: "So maybe you can't change your health overnight. But you can get a head start, with these 21 painless, proven ways to instantly boost your well-being (inside and out)". Well, who doesn't want to know these right!
But before I get into that, my girlfriend happened to send me an article from The Economist. I laughed out loud when I saw the title: Facebook is bad for you -- Get a life!
A recent study "has shown that the more someone uses Facebook, the less satisfied he is with life... Those who used Facebook a lot were more likely to report a decline in satisfaction than those who visited the site infrequently. In contrast, there was a positive association between the amount of direct social contact a volunteer had and how positive he felt. In other words, the more volunteers socialised in the real world, the more positive they reported feeling...".
An earlier study "found that the most common emotion aroused by using Facebook is envy. Endlessly comparing themselves with peers who have doctored their photographs, amplified their achievements and plagiarised their bons mots can leave Facebook's users more than a little green-eyed. Real-life encounters, by contrast, are more WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)" (from The Economist; read the article in its entirety here).
Well, back to the Real Simple article. Obviously I can't copy the whole thing out here, but I'll quickly share with you a few pointers. Hopefully, you'll be able to find a back issue or the article online if you're really interested (following extracts from Real Simple, April 2013).
One, Smile -- especially if you don't feel like it. "When you smile, you trigger a psychological and neurobiological alignment with positive emotions, and that can lead to healthier living. In other words: Fake it till you make it". I agree!
Here's another: Snack on dark chocolate (yay!). "In addition to its other documented health benefits, dark chocolate may help sharpen your mind... Even better, science has found evidence for what you suspected all along: Chocolate may help take the edge of stress". Get to it, people!
Then: Try Nature's chill pills. "Take a bath with Epsom salts... Put 10 drops of lavender oil (also shown to help promote a state of calm) in 2 cups of Epsom salts. Add to warm water and soak in it for 20 minutes". Those of you with bathtubs, let me know how this goes!
Next: Take a hike. Research has found that "being in nature can improve cognitive function. In one study, an hour-long trek in a woody park improved subjects' performances on memory and attention tests by as much as 20%, compared with a walk in an urban environment. Furthermore, some Japanese research has shown that a day spent in the forest can improve immune function and decrease concentrations of adrenaline and cortisol for as long as a week". Tiny remnant rainforest, here I come!
Then: Get some "microexercise". "Studies show that everything from cognition to the lymphatic system improves if we are more consistently active throughout the day... [Researchers] found that those who got short bouts of exercise (between 1 and 10 minutes) through everyday activities experienced the same benefits, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as did those who continuously exercised for 30 minutes". Does getting a cup of tea from the kitchen count?
Next: Pull on socks at bedtime. "Swiss researchers found that people fall asleep faster when their hands and feet are warmer than the ambient temperature of the bedroom". Also if you can get your baby to sleep through the night.
And finally -- Get some perspective on Facebook. Researchers have found that "Facebook can make you feel bad about yourself, even if you're not conscious of it. People in the study who had large friend networks tended to evaluate their lives more negatively... people tend to post disproportionately positive updates... Also, the more friends you have, the more of those impossibly perfect updates you'll probably see". Yay for my tiny handful of real FB friends!
Have a super, feel-good start to the week everyone (and go for a walk with a friend)!